Disclaimer: SGA and it's characters are not owned by me, unfortunately.
Author's Notes:I couldn't fit all of your requests in the story, but a lot made it in. I hope you like it. :) Thanks to shiny_starlight for beta'ing the story. I did work on it after the beta, so any mistakes that are left, are mine.
Summary:"And the winner of the Magician of the Year Award is....."
There is a pause and a drum-roll....
Rodney stared at the letter in his hands, rereading it for the fifth time since he received it a few minutes ago, just to make sure he hadn't misread it the first four times. It was still early and he had been sleeping when the doorbell rang, after all.
After a sixth re-reading, there could be no mistaking the content. He had been nominated for the Magician of the Year award. Privately, he thought it was long overdue and that he should have been nominated years ago, but it was still somewhat of a shock to realise the nominating committee finally agreed with him.
"Rodney, are you okay?"
Hearing concern in John's voice, Rodney looked up from his letter to see his lover leaning against the door frame. With his sleep tousled hair, dreamy hazel eyes, kissable lips and wearing only his blue striped boxers and fuzzy bunny slippers, that Jeannie had given him last Christmas, he was a sight to behold.
"I'm fine," he said, walking over to John and handing him the letter.
Rodney watched as the concern on John's face faded away and morphed into happiness.
"Congratulations," John said and pulled Rodney close to kiss him.
"I haven't won yet," Rodney protested feebly.
And Rodney could only smile at the confidence he heard in John's voice.
"I think this calls for a celebration, don't you?" John whispered in his ear.
Rodney couldn't agree more as he let John lead him to the bedroom.
Lucius woke up with a terrible headache, a little reminder of last night's ‘celebrations'. Not that he had much to celebrate. Now that he wasn't a well known and respected spiritualist anymore, the free drinks he had been getting at bars stopped, just like the female attention. The only attention he got now was mocking and threats of physical violence. After he got kicked out of one bar and was refused entry at another, he bought a few cheap bottles of vodka from a liquor store and then went home. Not his real home, since that had been repossessed, but a cheap rental apartment in a crappy neighbourhood. Lucius rubbed his forehead tiredly; he really needed to get up, Nature called and he really didn't feel like changing the sheets... again. When he got out of bed, the nausea hit him and he barely had enough time to make it to the toilet where he lost the content of his stomach. He rinsed his mouth with vodka and dragged himself back to bed, taking the bottle with him. If today was going to be as bad as the previous days, he was going to need it.
"What do you mean I can't access my money?" Lucius yelled at the bank manager in the tiny office he'd been herded into.
"All of your accounts have been frozen sir," the manager replied. "Surely your lawyer has informed you of this?"
Lucius tried to remember if Ladon had said something about it or not, but everything was a blur after the verdict had come back and he had been found guilty of fraud. The massive amounts of booze he had consumed afterwards probably hadn't helped either.
"Since I'm here, let's assume he hasn't. So why don't you do your job and get me my money. I'm still a client at this bank, aren't I?"
The bank manager rolled his eyes and Lucius had the sudden urge to punch him. Only a few months ago, this man would have been falling over himself to have the Great Lucius as a client, but now he was looking at him like he would rather be anywhere but in the same room as him.
"As I explained to you before, Sir, you're accounts have been frozen. Therefore, you can't take money out of them," the manager explained, looking at him like he was some dim-witted child who didn't understand what was being told to him. Which he did. He understood just fine. He understood that he should have gone with his instincts all those weeks ago and cleared out all of his bank accounts while he still had the chance. He could have hidden the money in a foreign bank, could have taken some of it and stuffed it in a mattress for safe keeping, but his lawyer had talked him out of it; had convinced him that doing that would make him appear guilty, that Lucius had nothing to worry about and it would all work out in the end.
He should have known better than to trust a lawyer.
The bank manager cleared his throat. "If that's all?"
Lucius was about to leave, there was no way he was getting his money from this pencil pusher and aggravating the man wouldn't get him anywhere, when something occurred to him.
"Was any money transferred to the law-firm Cowen, Kolya and Radim, before the accounts were frozen?"
"I'm afraid I can't answer that question." That's a yes then, Lucius thought viciously. "With all the money he paid them, they should have at least given him a heads ups instead of taking their fee and leaving him in abject poverty.
"I have a meeting in a few minutes, so I'm going to have to ask you to leave now. If you have any more questions, please feel free to make an appointment at the reception."
The manager, who didn't offer him his hand, pointed towards the door, as if Lucius didn't know where the exit was without being given a hint.
"So this is it? You're not even going to cut my credit cards in half?' Lucius sneered, throwing his, now useless, credit cards at the manager.
"That only happens in moves, but I'm sure that security..." the manager stepped behind his desks and pressed a button next to the phone, "will be more than happy to do it for you."
As soon as he'd finished his sentence, the door opened and two burly security guards entered the room.
"Is there a problem?" Goon Number One growled.
"No problem at all," the manager smiled thinly at Lucius. "Mister Lavin was just about to leave."
Lucius knew when he was defeated: he was outnumbered and out-muscled, so he did the only thing he could at that time. He left the room.
"You're lucky to have him," Jeannie said after John left the room, leaving only her and Rodney in the office. Rodney couldn't agree more with her.
Jeannie used to be Rodney's assistant but quit when she got pregnant. He could still remember the conversation.
Four Years ago
"Yes," Rodney said, without looking up from his papers. He just started working on a new trick involving his 'magical' hamster Timmie and a dating candle, and whatever Jeannie wanted to tell him could probably wait till he was done.
Or maybe not.
"And?" he drawled, wondering why she was telling him now. Jeannie knew he was at a critical stage of the development of the trick. He knew she knew because he posted signs on the door. And since she wasn't going to drop the baby right there and then, at least he hoped not, he didn't see why the news couldn't wait a few hours, or days. He was about to mention this to Jeannie, when his sister continued.
"You can start by congratulating me and also now would be a good time to start looking for a replacement assistant, because I won't be coming back to work after the baby's born."
"You're quitting?" Rodney asked incredulously, focusing on what he believed to be the most important part of his sisters' statement.
"I believe I just said that, yes." Jeannie said, rolling her eyes.
"You can't quit." Because obviously she couldn't. Rodney needed her to help out on the new tour that was going to start next month.
"I think I can. In fact I just did."
"You can't quit if I fired you first."
"It doesn't matter if you fire me or if I quit. The result is the same, so it really doesn't make any difference," Jeannie said exasperatedly.
"Maybe not, but it will make me feel better," Rodney pouted, knowing the lie as soon as he said it. He didn't want her to leave, but at the same time, he knew he had no way to stop her.
"If I'm fired, then I'm taking Timmie with me."
"You can't do that! Not only is Timmie my hamster, he's also a part of the show."
'The original Timmie belonged to me, and since I never gave her to you, all of her offspring are mine as well."
"But..." Rodney spluttered, knowing he would lose the argument. "What am I going to do now?"
"Find another assistant and get on with the show."
"You say that like it's easy."
"Of course not. The assistants I've seen are all blonde air-headed bimbo's in pretty outfits, with the attention span of a gnat. There's no way they'll be able to learn the routines in the time we have before you leave."
"And still those other magicians manage to perform with them. I will stay here and help until you've found a proper replacement. It will all work out Mer. I promise."
"And have I been wrong before?
Jeannie blinked her eyes and opened her mouth to say something, but Rodney beat her to it.
"I'm not going to say it again, so don't even bother asking."
"I was just going to suggest we have a toast to celebrate your nomination."
"Of course you were. And don't try that innocent look. That hasn't worked on me since you were five."
"It doesn't hurt to try though," Jeannie grinned and poured the sparkling cider in some coffee mugs, since they didn't have proper wine glasses.
Lucius emptied the last bottle of vodka he had in the toilet. It was a waste of booze, but at least this way he wouldn't be tempted. Last night's dream had given him clarity and a purpose and he couldn't be distracted from that. Granted, the plan needed some revision, because not only would deadly 'shuriken' yoyo's attached to a pottery wheel be an obvious and impractical assassination tool, but he also doubted that he could actually make it work.
McKay had been a thorn in his side ever since the Great Mancini had chosen McKay as a student and not Lucius. Looking back, he couldn't even blame the guy. McKay had always been the better magician of the two of them; Lucius wasn't so petty that he couldn't admit that, even if it was only to himself. But the fame, the adoration and the money should have been his and had been his.
Because although McKay had the better technical skills, Lucius had the people skills. He'd always been able to read people like a book. That, combined with the latest technology, made his spiritualist show one of the best attended in the country. The waiting list was at least three months: time Lucius and his crew had used wisely to research everyone in the audience. He'd been approached to write a book and there were plans for a TV-show.
All of that ended when McKay exposed him for being a fake. No more book-deal, no tv-show. Only negative publicity and people he 'helped' coming out of the wood works to file lawsuits against him to get compensated for monetary and emotional damages they had suffered. There would probably be more of those freeloaders now that he lost his first trial.
So what if he couldn't really communicate with the dead? When McKay made a car, a plane or even that stupid hamster of his disappear, they weren't really gone either. But no one would ever call that man a fraud. They paid for a show.
And as far as Lucius was concerned, it was the same with him. He put on a good show. He got paid for a job well done and the people left feeling reassured that their loved ones were happy in the afterlife. It was a win-win situation. Unfortunately, he was the only one who thought so.
He wasn't even sure why there had been a trial since everybody had obviously already decided that he was guilty. If only he'd been given a proper chance to explain' he was sure he would have been able to get out of it, but nobody would listen to him anymore, and he really hated that.
Rodney hated award ceremonies. He always had. Up until now, he had told himself that the reason was that he was never nominated and that it was thus a waste of his time hanging around people who obviously couldn't appreciate his brilliance. He had to concede now that this theory was wrong, because even though he had been nominated this time, he still hated the event with a passion.
While Jeannie had been Rodney's assistant, she'd always made him go to these events anyway. She had claimed they had to attend, because it was good for him to mingle with his peers, but secretly Rodney believed that the real reasons he wanted to was the fact that she the fact that she loved to dress up for the occasion.
John, on the other hand, hated wearing the tuxedo almost as much as he did, so Rodney had yet to figure out why John also insisted that they go to these ceremonies.
Noticing that his right leg was bouncing and probably had been since they came back from the intermission, Rodney took a deep breath and managed to still the restless limb.
The satisfaction he felt about getting his body under control was short-lived as only a minute later, his fingers started to twitch. He clasped his hands together hoping that would fix the situation and wondered what part of his body would rebel against him next.
Rodney couldn't even look at his watch to check how much longer he had to endure this torture because he was not allowed to wear one with his tuxedo.
The argument of 'everybody else is doing it' hadn't worked with his sister.
‘Just because everyone is doing it, doesn't make it right.' and so his watch stayed at home. And since this was Las Vegas the building didn't have clocks either.
Great, he thought as his leg started bouncing. The left one this time. He wished he could leave the room and pace somewhere, like maybe the lobby. He had done some nice pacing there during the intermission. That and eat the appetisers that were available on the tables and the bar in the room. Rodney had ignored the stares he got from people as he passed by their tables and took the snacks, leaving their plate empty.
It had been their own fault, he reasoned. If they had wanted to eat it, they should have been quicker, and besides, Rodney had his hypoglycaemia to consider.
Maybe he could excuse himself and escape to the bathroom for a while, where he could freak out in peace.
Rodney was about to get up when he felt John squeeze his hand.
"Breathe Rodney, you won't be able to pick up your award if you faint now."
"Pass out. And I am breathing, I'm talking aren't I? Ergo, I'm breathing. And don't think I haven't noticed that you're trying to distract me," he said, eyeing John's hand that was currently stroking his leg.
John shrugged. "It's working, isn't it?" And kissed him .
"Yes it is," Rodney said when they came up for air. "But if you keep distracting me like that, the walk up to the podium when I go to accept my award is going to be very awkward."
" Well, you'd better start working your magic, because your category is coming up."
"I hate you and I will get you back for this."
John grinned. "I wouldn't want to have it any other way."
Rodney watched as the host of the evening, Neil Patrick Harris, opened the envelope and started reading.
" And the winner of the Magician of the Year Award is....."
There is a pause and a drum-roll....
Lucius switched the TV off before the cheering and the applause started. He didn't need to hear that, or see McKay's smug face as he delivered his acceptance speech. If he did watch it, he'd most likely end up with him throwing the remote, or something else heavy nearby, at McKay's face, that would break the screen and he would be TV-less.
Only last year that wouldn't have been a problem. You break a TV, you buy a new one. But now his assets were frozen he didn't have that luxury. He was stuck in a drafty, one bedroom closet, because calling it an apartment was an insult. The hallway in his old house had been bigger.
Unfortunately, he was stuck with it for the foreseeable future. Well, unless he won the lottery or found a right woman to marry. But both were unlikely. He didn't have the money to buy lottery tickets and because of the way he lost his money, no rich woman would go anywhere near him. He knew, because he had tried. Hell, he'd even tried some rich men, but none of them were interested either. If he didn't know any better, he would think that the universe was playing a big joke on him.
"This is a joke, right?" Rodney said, barging into the Casino's PR Manager's office and throwing the handwritten invitation on her desk.
Laura briefly glanced at invitation. "No, why would it be?"
"Because it's stupid, I didn't agree to it and the invitations are written with a glitter pen. I'm not a 15 year old girl inviting her BFF's to her Sweet Sixteen."
"No, you're the Magician of the Year, Rodney. The glitter adds a little sparkle and magic to the invitations for a party you knew was going to happen when you won the award. It would be bad business for the Casino not to have one.
'I know that."
"Then what is the problem?"
"It's a costume ball at the Lemon Orchard" he put extra emphasis on that, "and you don't see what the problem is?"
"The Lemon Orchard is used for all the big parties in the Casino: it's spacious, next to the pool, and the lounge area, so no, I don't see what the problem it."
"You will see it if I go in to anaphylactic shock." Rodney bristled.
"Since there aren't any actual lemon trees, or other citrus trees in the orchard, that's not going to be much of a problem."
"There aren't? Then why is it called that?"
"Because it used to be a lemon orchard. But the Vegas climate wasn't suited for it and all the trees died."
"So, what is your problem with costume parties?"
"Who said I had a problem with costume parties?"
"You did when you mentioned them in the same breath as lemons."
"The moment people get into costume, their IQ-points, which in most cases aren't much to brag about, drop at least 30 points. 60 once they start drinking."
"It's called 'having fun'. You should try it sometimes."
"I have fun."
"Like what? Teaching your hamsters new tricks?"
"I do other stuff too".
"Debunking spiritualists. Most people wouldn't find that fun either."
"Since most people are stupid, that doesn't really matter to me. And don't expect me to dress up either."
"I can and I will. And if you don't, I'll provide an outfit for you, and I promise you, you won't like it."
"I guess that explains it then."
"Richard Woolsey at the Halloween Party."
Cadman shuddered. "I had nothing to do with that."
"You mean he went like that voluntarily?"
"I think he lost a bet."
I should hope so. I'm amazed no-one sued the Casino for emotional damages. Some things just aren't meant to be seen and that was one of them."
Rodney wished he could un-see it, but the image of the normally conservatively dressed accountant Richard Woolsey wearing gogo-boots, hot-pants and very little else had been burned onto his brain.
"Does anyone still trust him to do their books after that?"
"Why wouldn't they?"
"Because a sane, serious man, doesn't wear gogo-boots and hot-pants?"
"They can at Halloween, and I'm sure everyone realises it was a bit of fun."
"I should have known you would drag fun into it again."
"Well, what can I say?" Laura grinned. "I'm a fun girl."
"And speaking of fun, this will be the biggest party of the year. If you don't have tickets for it yet, make sure you get them, cause you'll be telling your grandkids about this one."
"Well, you heard the man", the TV-announcer said. "It sounds like it will be an amazing event. But will there also be magic in the air? For the answer to that question we turn to Denise with the weather forecast."
Lucius tuned Denise out and focused on his work again. He wasn't upset to see McKay on TV shows, or in the newspapers anymore. In fact, he'd deliberately tuned in when he knew McKay was going to be on, because if Lucius wanted to make McKay pay, make him suffer like he had suffered, he was going to need to find out what the man's weak spots were. And the only way to discover those was to study him.
After reading McKay's biography and several interviews, watching a few of his performances on TV, and one of his actual shows on DVD, Lucius came to the following conclusions:
1. McKay was a great Magician and had an ego to match.
2. Despite being a hypochondriac, he really was allergic to bee and wasp stings, all things citrus and was also hypoglycaemic.
3. He was totally in love with his assistant John Sheppard.
The combination of those three things would be the downfall of the Great McKay.
The party would be the perfect opportunity to exact his revenge. It was two weeks from now, giving him time to make the necessary preparations. Once he was at the party, all he had to do was lure John Sheppard to his, and ultimately Rodney Mckay's, doom.
Since it was a fancy dress party, he was fairly certain Sheppard wouldn't recognise him, especially considering he the outfit he was planning to wear. And the fake moustache would be the piece de resistance.
"You're not going to wear a fake moustache, are you, Radek?"
"I haven't decided yet."
Technically, Radek Zelenka was one of the magicians he was in direct competition with, but he was also one of the only ones Rodney could actually stand to be around for more than five minutes without wanting to kill them. And since the feeling appeared to be mutual, they usually met up once or twice a week.
"I'm just going to have to wait and see then."
"What's John going to wear to the party?"
"How am I supposed to know?"
"You're a couple aren't you? Don't you discuss these things?"
"When were we supposed to do that? Things have been so busy lately that the most time I get to spend with him is during the shows and that is not a good time for conversation."
"So I guess you aren't going to coordinate your outfits then."
"Why would we do that?"
"You could have gone as Doctor Horrible and John could have been captain Hammer."
'You do realise they weren't a couple, but arch enemies, right?"
"Details. There's only a small line between love and hate; everybody knows that."
"Everybody knows what?" John asked as he and Ronon, the casino's Chief of Security, walked in office, carrying a tray with three steaming mugs of coffee.
"Oh my God Sheppard, what did you do?" Rodney said, completely ignoring the coffee.
"Oops?" John said.
"Oops, that's all you can say? You look like a carrot."
"Just a small tanning accident."
"You call that small? And why were you tanning anyway?"
"Because I want to go to the party dressed as a gladiator."
"A gladiator?" Rodney raised an eyebrow.
"They were cool and had swords."
"I'm pretty sure they weren't orange."
"I wasn't supposed to be either."
"But you are now." Rodney cocked his head to the side and studied the other man. !You know, since you're already the right colour, you should consider going as a carrot.'
"Only if you dress as a rabbit," John countered.
"You would be a nicely coordinated couple then," Radek grinned, before sipping his coffee.
"So, what is your costume?"
"Dare I ask why?"
"The costume fit, it comes with a sword that I can use to keep the idiots at a distance and there is even a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle."
"And we could all use one of those."
"Exactly," Rodney said and started to think of ways he could use that chicken in his act. "But back to more important things: you're not going dressed as an orange gladiator. It would be wrong."
"I could ask Richard if I could borrow his costume."
"Please don't. I'm sure it will look amazing on you, but it still gives me nightmares."
"What does?" Ronon asked.
"Richard Woolsey's outfit last Halloween," John answered.
"What was wrong with that?" Ronon rumbled.
"I'm not going to have to explain that, am I? And don't think you can force me in to it by glaring at me."
"You think men shouldn't wear gogo-boots?":
"It depends on the guy. Woosley definitely shouldn't. It's just not right for him."
"So, what would be right for him?"
"Oh, I don't know. Opera singer?"
"That's what I'm going as this year."
"Really Radek, an opera singer. You're not going to sing are you?"
"That's for me to know and for you to find out."
"So, if you think an opera singer would be right for Woolsey, what would be right for me?" Ronon wanted to know.
"Erm. I don't know." Rodney tried to remember what costume he'd seen Ronon wear before. "Didn't you go dressed as Chewbacca last time? If you didn't, you could go dressed as that now, since you're tall and Wookie-like anyway."
"Wookie-like?" Ronon grumbled.
"You know I mean that in the nice way," Rodney said, back-paddling and moving next to John. "It's just a good look for you. It's not like you would wear a poofy dress."
"I wouldn't?" Ronon
"I think the big guy is taking you up on that challenge." John grinned and poked Rodney in the ribs.
"It wasn't a challenge...." Rodney started to say, but he knew it would be a waste of breath. "Do they even have poofy dresses in your size?"
"I guess we'll find out, now won't we? There is still a week before the party."
The last week before the party had flown by, and Lucius couldn't believe how smoothly everything had gone. All of his preparations had gone off without a hitch and nobody suspected a thing.
The party was just starting. The ticket he had purchased with the last of his cash got him into the party and so far, nobody had recognised him. He grinned. Everything was going according to plan. Lucius watched McKay and Sheppard, who were standing at the chocolate fondue table. McKay was stuffing his mouth with chocolate covered marshmallows and Sheppard was smiling fondly at him. The only problem was that for his plan to work, he needed to get Sheppard away from McKay, but since the party had started, they had been inseparable.
Lucius was beginning to wonder if he would ever get his opportunity, when a local TV-station swooped in and dragged McKay away for an interview.
Rodney hated interviews, especially ones that kept him from really nice chocolate. Most of the time, the ‘journalists', and he used that term very loosly, were badly prepared and hadn't done any research and so he ended up answering the same questions over and over again. Questions like if he'd always wanted to be a magician. I mean, please...
They should know by now, that no, he didn't. After the nuclear bomb incident in the sixth grade, his parents and teachers monitored anything he did with science so closely that it sucked all the fun out of it, in the same way his piano teacher had done when she told him he'd be nothing more than just a fine clinical player.
Shortly after that, his family had gone and seen a magic show. He'd had a great time figuring out how the tricks were done and then telling everybody within earshot. His parents had tried to quiet him down, but they were still asked to see the magician during the intermission.
Instead of the tongue lashing he was expecting, the magician wanted to know how he'd figured out the tricks and offered to teach him how to do them.
His parents were glad that he found a new, apparently safe, hobby, but still refused to buy him the doves or rabbits he wanted for his act, so he had to make due with Jeannie's hamster, Timmie, who he'd only been allowed to borrow under the condition that she became part of the show too.
Rodney was fine with that, since all great magicians had an assistant.
And she'd been a great assistant too, until she got herself knocked up by that English major that was now her husband, and she decided to settle down in Vancouver instead of going on tour with him. Fortunately, he'd found John, although if you heard Jeannie tell the story, it was all her doing.
Hiring John had been a bit of a fluke. His application listed he liked college football, Ferris Wheels and anything that moves faster than 200 miles per hour. That last thing explained why he had worked for the Air Force. His lack of experience got him put on the rejected pile for a while, but put back with the maybes when John turned out to be the only male candidate for the job. Rodney was going to have the man come over for an interview (and then reject him) so he couldn't be accused of gender-bias. He'd scheduled 15 minutes for the interview, which should be long enough to convince anyone that he was serious about this meeting.
His plans started to change the moment John Sheppard had sauntered into the room and had done a complete about-face once they started talking. Rodney cancelled the rest of the interviews and hired John on the spot.
This was also something they should know by now, but was still asked nearly every interview was forced to give.
He looked at his watch and saw that the torture was scheduled to run for another 15 minutes. He wished John could have been included in the interview and he wondered what he was doing now. With any luck, he'd fetch him a nice plate of finger food and a mug of coffee.
"Mr. Sheppard," Lucius said, approaching the man who was stacking chocolate chip cookies, whoopie pies and some cheesecake on a large plate.
"If you could follow me please. Doctor McKay asked me to show you something."
Sheppard eyed him suspiciously and checked his watch. "Rodney should be done with his interview soon. Why don't I wait and have him show me instead?"
"Because it's a surprise."
Lucius saw Sheppard size him up and come to the conclusion that the clown was not a threat to him. Even though this had been part of the plan, and Lucius was happy that it was working, he couldn't help feeling slightly offended for being so easily dismissed as a potential danger. He stalked towards the elevator, McKay's assistant right behind him.
Sheppard would see the error of his misjudgement soon enough though and until then, Lucius would just have to hold back his frustration.
The uncomfortable silence stretched between them as they rode the elevator to the basement and made their way to where Lucius had... procured a large storage compartment.
Sheppard opened the door, switched on the lights and stared into the room.
"Are you sure we're in the right place?"
"We sure are," Lucius replied, finding it hard to suppress his glee at seeing his plan come true.
"So, what's the surprise?
Lucius pressed a cloth, damp with chloroform, against John's face.
"You'll find out soon enough," Lucius answered the now unconscious body of John Sheppard.
He checked his watch and set his alarm. Only 15 more minutes to go before he would get his revenge. He had plenty of time.
"Thank you for your time, Doctor McKay."
The interview, which hadn't been as horrible as it could have been, was finally over. He removed the microphone, handing it back to a tech guy and left the room.
Rodney searched the lounge area for John, frowning slightly when he couldn't see him. People were line dancing to Barbie Girl, but fortunately, John or Laura weren't among them, so he was in no danger of being forced to join in the ‘fun'. Still, it was strange for John not to be nearby after an interview. Usually, he'd be there afterwards, listening to Rodney as he vented his frustrations and more often than not, feeding him some snacks. 'All part of the job' they joked, knowing full well that is wasn't. But John was nowhere to be found now.
He was about to get his cell phone and call him when he noticed a strange looking clown walking towards him.
'Great,', Rodney thought. 'That's all I need. Some weirdo who wants to show me his tricks. It's a good thing John isn't here, because he hates clowns."
"I'm not signing autographs and I'm not looking for an apprentice," Rodney said as soon as the clown reached him.
"That's fine", the clown replied, 'because I don't want either of those."
"Then what do you want?" Rodney asked, looking the clown up and down. There was something familiar about him, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. He was never good at recognising people and the wig and fake moustache the clown was wearing wasn't helping things. Rodney shrugged. It probably wasn't important anyway.
"I have a message for you from John Sheppard."
That was a bit strange, since John hated clowns, and he could have just called or left a text message, but, Rodney reasoned, maybe this was his way of showing Rodney that he wasn't afraid of them, especially since Rodney had teased him with when he found out that he didn't like them.
"So, what's the message?" Rodney said, snapping his fingers and holding out his hand so the message could be deposited there.
"You'll have to come with me, so he can tell you in person."
"I'm not leaving this party with some stranger. How do I know you're not going to kidnap me?"
"Well, you don't," the clown acknowledged, "But since we're not leaving the building and I don't have a weapon, there really isn't much chance of that, is there?"
"I only have your word that we're not leaving the building, and you might not have a weapon on you, but you could have one hidden in the place you're taking me. You or one of your goons, since you probably need a few for a kidnapping."
"I could have, but I didn't. There are no goons, the only person waiting for you is John Sheppard, and If I wanted to kidnap you, I certainly wouldn't do it from a place with this many witnesses or security camera's."
"You have a point. After you."
Even as he was following the clown, Rodney had a nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right, but since he couldn't pinpoint what it was, he decided to let it go for now. The sooner he would find John, the sooner he could get away from this weird clown and pretend that none of this had ever happened.
When Lucius locked the door to the storage room behind them, Rodney he realised he should have listened to that nagging feeling, and that it probably also would have been a good thing if he had told Ronon, or someone other security officer, that he was leaving the party. For once, Rodney was glad he had to give a speech during the evening, because once he didn't show up for that, they were going to be searching for him. All he had to do was stall.
"Where's John? You said he had a message for me."
"Why don't you look to your left?" the clown said and pushed a button.
In the left of the room stood a spotlight, illuminated a glass box, about 3 feet wide and 10 feet high. It was padlocked shut and probably soundproof because John hadn't reacted to them coming into the room. John, who was standing inside the box, his arms suspended over his head and his wrists bound to a hook in the top of the enclosure. He had his eyes squeezed shut, and Rodney couldn't blame him, because the box was also swarming with hundreds of bees. John hated insects even more than he did clowns.
"What the hell? Are you crazy?" Rodney yelled, panicking for John. "Let him go. Now! I demand that you release him immediately."Rodney snapped his fingers and held out his hand, waiting for the key. This usually worked with his minions and he hoped if this guy had been one, it would still be effective.
"You can demand all you want, but it won't get you anywhere," the clown said, removing his hat and moustache and now Rodney realised where he'd seen that face last. It was in court, where he'd testified at the trial of Lucius Lavin.
"You'll never get away with this Lucius!" Rodney shouted, while cringing on the inside for saying such a stupid, cliché thing.
"Maybe not, but I've got nothing to lose."
"What about your freedom?"
"That's overrated. It's only worth something if you have the money to enjoy it and because of you, they took it all away."
"Killing John won't change that."
"I know, but it will make you feel miserable, and that will make me feel better," Lucius grinned evilly and looked at the clock. "Time is running out. Sooner or later those bees are going to start stinging, and soon, it will be all over for your lover-boy. Sting by painful sting."
"You're completely crazy," Rodney stated, eyes darting between John and Lucius.
"Maybe," the former spiritualist grinned. "But at least I'm doing it with style."
"What do you want?" Rodney gulped.
"Take a look at your right."
Rodney did and saw what appeared to be an enormous wall of jello, which was ridiculous, because there was no way you could stack jello that high without it falling over. On closer inspection, Rodney noticed the glass construction keeping the jello in place, the key suspended in the middle of the yellow mess and a hammer that was attached to the case with a metal chain.
"A hammer? What am I supposed to do with that?"
"Isn't it obvious? And here I thought you were a genius. With the hammer, you smash the glass so you'll get access to the key, which you can then use to open Sheppard's cage."
"That's just way too easy. What's the catch?"
"That it's going to kill you."
"Death by a wall of Jello? Which cartoon did you get that idea from? Don't tell me, because I really don't want to know. Not to mention a complete waste of perfectly good food."
'That's a matter of opinion."
"The wrong opinion, since there is no actual citrus in yellow jello you know, or don't you know how to read the ingredients on the packaging?"
"I can read just fine." Lucius sneered. "What I lack is the ability to follow directions which is why I prepared the Jello with lemon juice instead of with water." He smiled when Rodney flinched. "Not so much fun now, is it? Your lover will die and the only way to save him will kill you instead. You'll suffocate in a sea of jello. And, even if by some miracle you get to the key and manage to save John by opening his cage to let the bees out, you're still going to die. You'll be covered in jello, and gosh, do you know it, they love that sweet stuff." He laughed, an insane light in his eyes as he did. "I wonder what will kill you first, the bees or the citrus."
Fuck, he really was screwed unless he found a fast way to get to the key and not get any of the poisoned goop on him. The hammer option was out. It was only going to get him and John killed and there was no way he was going to let that happen.
He could still wait. His speech should have probably begun by now, and it wouldn't be much longer before security would find him, but the big question was how much time John had left before he moved or sneezed or did something else that would upset the bees.
There had to be another way. There just had to be. And that's when Rodney remembered the epi-pen he had with him. It wasn't going to be pretty, but it didn't have to be. The epinephrine should keep his airways open long enough for him to get the key, open the glass box and free John from the bees and...
"Quit stalling, McKay, or I'll start throwing rocks at the box. I'm sure the bees will love that."
The hammer it was. Rodney took a deep breath. He could do this. While he slowly walked to the jello-wall, he uncapped the epi-pen in the front pocket of his pants and injected himself. The angle was wrong and he'd never had to presumptively administer the drug, but he could already feel the effects. His breath was speeding up and his heart was racing. His hands were trembling as he reached for the hammer.
Lucius couldn't believe how well his plan was working. He watched as McKay slowly made his way to the wall and the hammer, his hands trembling in fear. Soon, it would be all over, though hopefully not too soon. He really wanted to enjoy this and it would be a shame if it was all over in less than a minute.
McKay had the hammer now. After a few seconds where it looked like was trying to get his nerves under control, and failing miserably, he swung the hammer at the ‘Jello-tank' breaking the glass and getting buried under hundreds of gallons of the substance.
Lucius was glad he'd constructed the tank with the stunt glass that they used in movies, because with his kind of luck, if he'd used real glass, McKay would have probably gotten cut by a shard of it and bled out before the anaphylaxis could take hold.
Unfortunately, he had underestimated how far the jello goop would flow once its container had been broken, because he was standing ankle deep in the sticky sweet substance.
Rodney had held his breath and closed his eyes as the jello crashed on top of him, knocking him off his feet. He needed to find the damn key, but first, he had to open his eyes. He got rid of as much of the stuff as he could, but there was no way to avoid some of if getting in his eyes. It stung and blurred his vision, but he had to find the key. It was the only chance John had, and he wasn't going to fail him.
Feeling more than seeing the key, he picked it up and started shuffling toward John. If he had been healthy he could have crossed those 20 feet in a few seconds, but now with his vision failing and his throat slowly closing up, he was barely able to keep his balance on the slippery surface and he hoped he would be able to open the lock before he passed out.
Faint, John would have said. That thought made Rodney smile and also made him more determined. He would reach John, he would open the door and save him.
Rodney was vaguely aware of a banging noise in the distance, but he couldn't let anything distract him from his mission. Only a few more feet to go.
The banging noise at the door made Lucius look up.
Damn, the Casino security had been faster than he had anticipated. He was glad he had reinforced the door, but it would only be minutes more before they would be here. He was pretty sure they would be too late to save either Sheppard or McKay, but not totally sure.
McKay had found the key and was making his way over to Sheppard's cage. It was amazing how the man was still walking. All his research indicated that he should have collapsed from the anaphylaxis by now. Unless... He probably had one, or more, epi-pens on him. Lucius could kick himself for not taking them away from McKay while he had the chance.
He checked the door again and saw small cracks starting to appear in it. It wouldn't be long now. Lucius wondered if he should add a little incentive and do what he threatened to do earlier. Throw rocks. Not enough to break the glass, but enough to anger the bees. That way he would be certain of the demise of John Sheppard, and fairly certain of McKay's death.
The downside was that McKay had the key and seeing his lover in even greater danger than he was now would spur the man on to go faster. Chances were he could open the cage before he collapsed and Lucius didn't want to be a target for a swarm of angry bees.
No, better to wait it out. It wouldn't be long now.
‘It wouldn't be long now.' Rodney thought, fumbling with the key. He really hoped it was the correct key. After all this he really couldn't handle Lucius' laughter if he revealed that he still had the key to the lock and one that Rodney held would never fit.
He tried to get his trembling body under control while listening for the laughter that would put an end to the small sliver of hope he had of saving the man he loved. It didn't come though and after several tries, he finally managed to sink the key into the lock and twist. The lock opened and so did the door.
Rodney fell to the floor, unable to keep himself upright. John was saved. The bees had swarmed out of the box as soon as the door had been opened. Rodney knew this because he had been stung twice already, not that it really matered anymore. In the distance, he could hear some people shout. He thought one of them was Ronon. Rodney giggled at the thought of some of the bees flying at Ronon, probably thinking that the colourful poofy dress he was wearing was a giant flower. It was good he was here though. He would make sure John was safe, he closed his eyes now, since they stung and there really wasn't a good reason to keep them open anymore.
Lucius instinctively closed his eyes when the door was smashed through. He didn't even bother to try and escape since there was nowhere to run to. And like he'd said to McKay earlier, he had nothing to lose.
"Where are they?" The large man in the colourful dress asked him as soon as he stepped through the hole where the door used to be.
He pointed to the glass box where Sheppard was now actively struggling to get free from his bonds, trying to get to McKay.
"You're too late though." he said smiling, because even from where he was standing, he could tell that McKay wasn't breathing anymore. He might not have killed Sheppard, but that was never his main goal and watching the man turn into an emotional wreck in front of him was turning out to be even more satisfying than his death would have been.
The security team ran towards the cage. Two people freed Sheppard from the hook he was hanging from and the other two started CPR on McKay. The last thing Lucius saw before he was dragged away was John Sheppard rushing toward his lover and stabbing him in the leg with another epi-pen. He smiled at the Sheppard's desperate and useless attempt to save McKay, because he was dead.
Rodney was dead, had been dead, would have stayed dead if it hadn't been for the CPR and John having an extra epi-pen. He realised how lucky he had been and how close he had come to losing John and himself because of that stupid fraud.
When he had woken up in hospital the first time, Ronon had informed him that Lucius had burst into a violent rage and had to be restrained by three police officers after he had been informed that Rodney was still alive. He was locked up in the maximum security wing of the prison and Rodney was really looking forward to testifying at his trial to make sure he stayed there for the rest of his life.
"Look who joined the land of the living," John smiled and held out a cup of water with a straw, so Rodney could drink a little.
He took a few smalls sips. It was good to be able to swallow again, and breathe. It was still hard to talk, but, being who he was, he couldn't help himself.
"I'm beginning to see your point about clowns."
"No talking Rodney, doctor's orders,"John admonished, but even Rodney could see that he said it just for show. "I'm glad you're beginning to see it my way though. Clowns are creepy."
"You're right, they should all be banned," Rodney agreed. "And mimes too."
"That's a great idea," John said in that tone of voice where Rodney knew he was just being humoured. "We'll start planning as soon as you wake up again."
"But I am awake now," he started to say and then realised he wasn't going to be for much longer.
"You'll be here when I wake up?" he mumbled.
"Always, you're never getting rid of me."
"Promise?" Rodney asked, struggling to keep his eyes open.
And with the feeling of John's lips pressed against his, Rodney fell asleep.